Sprint is mixing up its unlimited plans starting tomorrow (July 13), with a nod toward giving customers more options when it comes to their monthly cellular service. But with more options comes more potential for confusion, as would-be subscribers need to sort through just what each new Sprint plan offers.
Sprint has essentially split its unlimited plans in two, with the less expensive Unlimited Basic offering a lot of the same features as Sprint's outgoing Unlimited Freedom plan at a lower rate for families of four. Families can also mix and match Sprint's two unlimited options — a change for the carrier.
A single line of Unlimited Basic costs $60 a month, the same as Sprint's previous unlimited plan. You can add a second line for $40 and third, fourth and fifth lines for $20 each. That means a family of four would pay $140 a month, a $20 discount from what four lines of unlimited data used to cost at Sprint.
|Single Line Monthly Cost
|Second Line Monthly Cost
|Lines 3-5 Monthly Cost
|LTE Hotspot Data
|Up to 480p
|Unlimited talk and text, 5GB of LTE data
|Streaming limits on music, games
|Up to 1080p
|Unlimited talk and text, 10GB of LTE data
|Discount available if you bring your own phone or buy one from Sprint
What do you get for that money? Besides unlimited talk, text and data, Unlimited Basic bundles in the Hulu streaming service and lets you use 5GB of LTE data when you're roaming in Canada and Mexico. Video streams are limited to 480p, or DVD quality, and you'll also face streaming restrictions on music and gaming, with both limited to 500 Kbps and 2 Mbps, respectively).
Those music and gaming streaming restrictions are more severe than with Sprint's previous plan, and hotspot data is more limited, too: you get 500MB of LTE shareable data per month with Unlimited Basic, with speeds slowed to 3G after you reach your limit.
If you find those restrictions too limited for an unlimited plan, you can try the more expensive Unlimited Plus plan. Sprint charges $70 for a single line of Unlimited Plus, with a second line costing $50, and lines three, four and five costing $30 each. That means a family of four pays $180 a month.
Along with Hulu, Unlimited Plus includes the Tidal music service, with music streaming up to 1.5 Mbps. Unlimited Plus also supports full HD streaming for video. You'll get 10GB of LTE data when you travel to Canada and Mexico, plus 15GB of LTE hotspot data.
Under a current promotion to mark the July 13 launch of the new unlimited plans, Sprint is cutting the cost of Unlimited Plus for customers who bring their own devices or buy a phone outright through the carrier. Under this promotional pricing, Unlimited Plus costs $50 a month for a single line, with a second line available for another $30, and lines three through five costing $10 each. In other words, a family of four pays $100 a month.
The arrival of Sprint's new unlimited plans means the end of one of the carrier's better offers, though. Sprint had been waiving the fees on the third, fourth and fifth lines of its Unlimited Freedom plan for a year, letting families of four get unlimited data for $100 a month for the next 12 months. However, with the Unlimited Freedom plan making way for Unlimited Basic and Plus, that offer ends today (July 12).
Sprint says families will be able to mix and match its new unlimited plans, opting for either Basic or Plus on different lines. Verizon introduced the same flexibility recently when it reshuffled its unlimited offerings.
Even better news for Sprint customers: the carrier is raising the threshold at which it reserves the right to slow down speeds for unlimited subscribers who use a lot of data during a billing period. That level is now 50GB for all unlimited plans; previously, using 23GB in a month could have triggered a slowdown.
Sprint is hardly the first carrier to divvy up its unlimited plans into multiple tiers. Verizon now offers three variations of unlimited plans, while AT&T has two. Even T-Mobile, which offers a single T-Mobile One unlimited plan, offers add-ons for HD video streaming and international travel that are essentially different plans.
Unlimited Basic and Unlimited Plus aren't even Sprint's only plans. The carrier continues to offer its Unlimited 55+ plan where customers 55 years and older can get two lines of unlimited data for $70 a month. Sprint's Unlimited Military plan offers discounts on family plans for veterans, active duty military and reserves, with one line costing $60 a month, a second line costing an additional $20, and lines three, four and five costing $10 each.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.